A/N: I'm sorry.
Chapter 41: Spark and Flame
"Weep for the future. Weep for us all."
"Are you all right?"
"I have looked into the darkness. You can not do that and never be quite the same again."
As dusk fell over the city, the wine-shop was packed with visitors.
The main room in the Corinthe was smaller than the Café Musain, even if one did consider the billiard room on the first floor to be an adequate substitute for the back room, which it was not, be it in space or remoteness.
They had convinced Madame Houcheloup to factually close the bar to anyone not invited to the assembly – another difference to the Musain, where Lucien certainly would not have needed a hint to preempt the desire for privacy. The upper room was supposed to be dedicated to side discussions, but as far as Bahorel could see it, the only use of the second level of the wine shop was the fact that a couple of students occupied the winded staircase leading upwards to have a better view on the assembly below.
The attendance was less than it had been during the first assembly in the Musain – but this was not surprising given the fact that the explicit invitation had only been uttered towards the representatives, while neither Enjolras nor Combeferre had discouraged that others trailed along.
That was probably not the worst of decisions. Insecurity was still heavy all around, and could almost be grasped with bare hands.
Bahorel knew that possibly better than others. After having – in vain – tried to find Marius in the Gorbeau house, Grantaire and he had spent their day passing between the various groups, making sure that everyone knew the venue of this evening's meeting and promised to come. While Bahorel was fairly confident that most of them would have showed up anyhow, the personal invitation and connection offered an additional element that served as calming.
Worry was still to be felt everywhere, although it was exhibited in different ways by different groups.
Together with Grantaire, he sat amidst a group of members of the Barriere du Maine section who had predictably already emptied the first round of drinks with remarkable speed and dedication and received a second helping. Bahorel himself intended to go easy, but sipping on his cup gave the impression that he was participating in the drinking while he was, in fact, currently more of an observer.
Despite their obvious notion to celebrate – Grantaire and Eustace Reverre were passing the time until the assembly would commence with another round of dominoes, and discussions around the table were lively and just a trifle saucy – the day had slightly changed Bahorel's view on the Barrière du Maine group, and for the better.
When he had arrived, they had been busy preparing the funeral of the Virille brothers, who, as it turned out, had no close kin living in Paris; but apart from that, the drunken mourning had passed and been exchanged with a resiliency that was surprising. Their enthusiasm for a celebration was – as the situation proved – unchanged, but there was a grim notion about it that took Bahorel by surprise.
He sat back, extracting himself slightly from the discussions to let his gaze wander over those that were assembled.
The Sellers sat in a corner close to the entrance, together with Feuilly and some more of their comrades, drinking moderately and exchanging glances as much as short comments. They had arrived in almost full numbers, and, more than that, he could discern three other girls in their ranks. Seemingly, they had felt the need to assemble together all of those that were close to them. Bahorel had been told by the Sellers, that there had been incidents that gave them reason to feel somewhat threatened, but John had divulged no details as of yet and promised to give a full account during the assembly itself.
Deleric and Goudin together with a few fellows from the university sat on the stairs to the upper floor, passing a bottle between them. Bahorel heard them exchanging puns of various cleverness and multiple allusions classical, political or philosophical.
Those members of the Cougourde that had chosen to appear – in addition to Stéphane Barilou, who was the second representative of the group there were two others that Bahorel knew by sight only - had taken their place at the table next to the one still occupied by Enjolras and Courfeyrac. Marc Lamarin was sitting between the two tables, visible link between the groups. Bahorel could not hide a smirk at this visual display of the role that the young man was slowly growing into.
That had been the nasty surprise of the day.
The only good about it had been that they had actually met Jehan there, while he was reporting to the Picpus group that he had found their missing comrades in the most gruesome way.
It was only natural that after this news, only two members of the Picpus cell had found their way to the Corinthe – Vincent Griollet, who had been present the last time as well, and Laurent Abati, whose dark skin was a telltale sign of his Caribbean heritage, and who was replacing Frater Antoine.
The others, Bahorel knew, had gone back to the sewers with Jehan to recover the bodies of their fallen friends.
It was unfortunate that in the meantime Enjolras had sent out Bossuet and Marius to look for Jehan, but it was not to be helped and there was hope that the three of them would meet despite the lack of information on both parts. The assembly did not have time for this, and while Bahorel had briefly considered going to Picpus himself, he had finally decided against it. He was too curious as to what would happen here, and there were already enough of them about town without him.
Gavroche arrived late and with great cheer. He briefly stopped at the entrance to look around and then waved, first at Joly and Combeferre in the corner, then at Bahorel, and finally towards the table where Courfeyrac and Enjolras were sitting
"You rascal!" The gamin had barely finished his greeting when Courfeyrac jumped up from where he was sitting and tackled his young friend playfully, laughing with a relief that belied an anxiousness that he had hidden well under his usual dash. "And where have you been all the time?"
Gavroche gave back a puff to the best of his abilities, and Bahorel was not certain that the Courfeyrac's brief sagging was make-believe only.
"You know", he said, "things to do, places to be." His shrug was nonchalant and his grin broad. "And I bring news."
"I surely hope so." Courfeyrac let go of the boy, but his hand on Gavroche's shoulder stayed. "You could have given us some news of your whereabouts before though. We were worried, you know."
"I know my way around."
Courfeyrac raised a brow.
"So does Éponine."
"Ouch. Low blow." The boy made a face and then smoothly changed the topic. "Which reminds me. She's not coming. She's running an errand."
Courfeyrac frowned slightly.
"Well, that's a shame. She was a good help last time. I could have used her help. Anything of importance?"
Gavroche shook his head.
"Don't really think so. She didn't seem worried, just confused."
While Bahorel believed that Eponine generally had a good notion of the dangers she was walking into, he was not sure that he was entirely calmed by that statement.
"So she is running around the city alone again?" Surprisingly, Enjolras, who had remained seated at the table, joined the discussion, radiating disapproval. "After all that happened?"
"What do you take me for? She thinks she's running the city alone." He gave a quick grin. "In fact, Jean and Pucet are with her."
Clearly, neither Enjolras nor Courfeyrac were much calmed by this, and Bahorel himself would have agreed that the presence of a boy of nine and his five-year old comrade was probably not something that would scare off the likes of Alfonse Rebucy. But again, this was not to be helped. Time was running short.
"I see." Enjolras' pale face did not betray his thoughts, but Bahorel knew the tone of disapproval too well to ignore it. "It seems then that neither of you have much sense of self-preservation. How much must happen until you understand that this situation is truly dangerous, for all of us?"
Gavroche rolled his eyes, apparently quite immune to Enjolras' reprimand.
"Look", he said, and his voice and eyes were remarkably serious given his usual cheer. "Best you understand it right away. You have your life. And place. And promises. So have we. There's things we need to do. Places we need to be. People we need to help because one day they helped us. That's how it works, for all of us, by the way. You break these rules, you end up dead in a gutter, one-way or another. And I'm not even meaning caught or something, but starved, cause no one helps you if you don't deliver, y'see? Gotta have rules in the world, and gotta be reliable somewhat."
Enjolras narrowed his eyes and watched the gamin for a moment, face unreadable.
"I see", he finally said and turned away from the boy, as if the case had been closed by these words alone. "Let's start then. There is much to discuss and we have no time to lose."
This was an unfortunate continuation of this morning's discussion with Éponine, Bahorel thought.
He was not sure, how much farther their leader's morals could be stretched before something would have to give.
The dress was fairly comfortable to wear – not as well-known and worn like her usual attire, but still of soft, pliant cloth and roughly fitting to her in size and shape – and although Éponine felt slightly strange as she walked towards the Trésor d'Alsace, there was a difference in the way she was treated as she passed through the crowded streets of evening Paris.
It had been a while since she had owned a dress that merited the name, and she had all but forgotten what it meant, and what different kind of power it gave to her.
Being ragged, as she usually was, generated a sort of protection that came with fear and disgust. She was clearly one of the miserable creatures of the underworld, a beggar or thief or worse, someone to avoid and be wary of, and this kept respectable citizens at arms length and left her to her own dealings.
There were many like her, of course, and she was able to vanish in the crowd of the wretched at will, but now, in that dress, she was more grisette than miserable, and this was a difference in worlds.
A grisette – while not rich – possessed a trait that Éponine lacked. She was respectable; poor, but respectable, a face in thousands, still not important enough to be remarked, but also not dangerous enough to be wary of.
Éponine wondered why she had never realized how much of a new level of invisibility this could be.
And wondered what Montparnasse had intended with showing her this door.
The room was stifling hot and full.
Usually, the Corinthe was a place of winter, the walls covered in wooden panels, a few columns dividing the room. Chairs and tables in the same dark wood were strewn about the wine-shop that seemed to swallow even in summer all the daylight that dared to peek through the tiny windows of the house. A bar was placed into one corner of the room, a door behind it leading into the kitchen which occupied the back part of the house. The arrangement was completed by barrels, big and small, placed haphazardly between the tables, standing or lying along the walls. Big barrels placed on the floor, small barrels on the bar and on the tables, some of them empty, some full.
Candles were strewn about, on the tables, on the barrels, some in candleholders, some directly placed on the barrels, giving off a dim, warm light.
The image was completed with trinkets of dubious origin that were distributed over the room seemingly at random.
On the whole, the place gave the impression of a wine cellar rather than a restaurant, and the feeling of being underground never fully left it, despite it being ground floor. Even when few customers were present, it seemed full and crowded, and now, with the amount of people, it was positively packed.
Thus, the Corinthe was a comfortable thing in winter, but in summer the place seemed narrow and stifling, and Grantaire had never liked being here between April and October. But of course Enjolras was not swayed by arguments as trifle as the comfort of the location and so the Corinthe had become the place of today's assembly. It was as simple as that.
Grantaire, the absinthe running comfortably through his veins, leaned back in his chair wondering if a second helping of the green fairy would enhance the cheer of the spectacle before his eyes, but ultimately he decided against it. He wanted to follow the tales and arguments, and it would not do to be too far gone until then.
So he stuck to the wine that was not very good, but at least strong, as he watched the assembly forming.
Unlike at the Musain, the assembly was not separated completely from the rest of those present. Courfeyrac, fancying himself the Master of Ceremonies – an amusing thought, Grantaire decided, as he pictured his friend not in his usual attire, but with the staff, wig and gold trimmed jacket of a royal herald – declared that the assembly would be open to all, but only those named representatives of their groups should speak. This, he said, should contain the hassle and discussions to a managing level.
There was some grumbling at that – in which Grantaire joined for the fun of it – but the idea was largely accepted and his friends made to do the final adjustments to the room for the assembly to begin.
A makeshift speaker's stage was made of a low table that they had brought down from the first floor, and Enjolras took to it in all his glory, and finally, the spectacle started.
"And so you are here."
It was a strange place to call a meeting, so high above the city, and so many of them, all finding their own paths to get her, be it stealth, persuasion or the blatant truth of the obvious, that so often is the most comfortable disguise.
The Friend stood close to the abyss, looking out at the city below as it prepared for sleep, but not close enough for an errant shove to be of any real danger – they were predators after all, and they would do well not to forget it.
"Why have you called us here?"
The youngest voice, the youngest face. The Boy had taken up a posture of nonchalance, leaning against one of the pillars and looking, not at the Friend, but at the city instead.
"For many reasons", the Friend answered. "The time for waiting has passed, and so has the time for observation. We were successful, in parts, but in parts we have failed, and this we have to remedy."
"Where's the Hound?"
The Knife had always been closest to the Hound, for reasons that were known to the Friend but of no relevance to him, and the Friend turned around to his comrade, to the small, slender man that was by far the most nimble and agile climber among them. There was no reason to lie or delay.
"The Hound is gone."
Silence answered this statement, and the Friend, tense for a moment, looked into the faces of his comrades, but he found no anger there, just a mixture of confusion, worry, and – when looking to the Knife – sadness.
"Is that why we are here?" he asked, and the Friend shook his head.
"We are here to watch", he explained.
"Watch what?" the Boy demanded, looking out at the bustling city below.
The Friend smiled.
How much could happen in a day? How much could happen in two?
Courfeyrac, having finally retreated to the sidelines to let the assembly run its course allowed himself a moment of exhaustion.
On the table in the corner, he saw Feuilly and Gavroche putting heads together in an attempt to recreate the picture of one of the assassins that had been lost during the raid of Le Globe yesterday evening.
And in the main assembly, events rolled by in an incredible density that was frightening to behold.
The floor belonged to Picpus first, to Laurent Abati, who was a calm man whose deep voice inspired confidence despite the gruesome things he was saying.
The good news was that the group had reassembled – that at least was something to rejoice in – but it seemed as if there were only twelve left of them, which accounted for fifteen dead.
A blood toll higher than any other of them had paid.
"Sadly, we still do not know if this is the hand of a single man or a group", Vincent Griollet added from where he was sitting. He looked pale and sad, but was not without determination. "We assume we have been taken out one by one. From what little we could do to retrace the steps of our comrades, some of them seem to have been either on some errand when they vanished. Others… well, we found hints at schemes designed to lure them out of their homes. Letters from home, missives and messagers, strange sounds, threats. Namelle's apartment was set on fire to call him home quickly. Whoever it is, his resourcefulness is unheard of."
"And the attacks have continued over the days", Enjolras added. "Which is not something that has happened everywhere."
"No thanks to them", Jeanne Sellers threw in from where she was sitting next to her husband. Her rough voice had a slightly sarcastic quality to it. "They've broken into at least four of our apartments – and that's only those where they left traces." A grin stole itself onto her face. "It's a shame though that we stuck together and didn't give them a chance to catch us alone."
Courfeyrac gave a worrying glance towards Abati at that, and found his fears confirmed in a quick, angry flash of a gaze towards Jeanne. The grisette reacted with a raise of a brow and a shrug.
"No offense of course", she added quickly. "Possibly our man moved much less quickly."
"What are you implying?" Abati asked, his voice dangerously low, and Jeanne's roll of eyes in annoyance did not improve the situation too much.
"I'm not implying anything, don't get all wired up", she answered. "If I were implying you'd realize it, I'm not all that subtle. That may be an unusual concept for you, coming from a woman, but I actually meant it exactly like I said. You seem to have had the unfortunate lot of dealing with the most capable man or group. End of story."
Abati narrowed his eyes, and Courfeyrac saw the possibility to intercept the discussion.
"And the two of you are not the only ones who have had additional trouble since the first strike." In quick words he relayed Éponine's troubles, the occurencies at Le Globe and, finally, the contents of the anonymous letter that had told them the identity of Alfonse Rebucy.
"Can that letter even be trusted?"
"Good question", Enjolras answered into the direction of Ramon Deleric, who had thrown the question into the room. "Its contents will certainly have to be verified. What remains is that a certain… modus operandi… a vice, if you want to call it that way, has confirmed at least parts of the letter to be accurate. I concur, though, that it is imperative that the rest be verified."
"Martin de Sye, one of our numbers, has published a few articles in the Moniteur", Laurent Abati explained. "While meaning no offense to Le Globe", with this, he gave a quick nod to Combeferre who returned it curtly, "it is fairly local and currently in uproar to say the least. But we could prod the Moniteur's archives for information, maybe."
"That's a good idea", Enjolras nodded. "Do it. The more we know, the better."
"Why would anyone even send that anonymous letter?" commented pale Franc Goudin from his post on the stairs to the upper floor. "Either he intends to join his lot with ours – then why the secrecy? Or he has more to hide. A… ploy behind giving us these informations. Or some measure of untruth."
"Or maybe", Marc Lamarin interjected softly, "he's just afraid."
"Another riddle to unravel", Enjolras concurred. "I would have Pontmercy chase the origins of this dubious letter of his, but seeing as he is not here… well. We will think of something and report in two days."
"Fear is not quite so unrealistic", Ramon Deleric supported Lamarin's theory in slightly accentuated French. "If one considers what has happened to Madame de Cambout who spoke about things too clearly and courageously."
"The captivity of Madame and all that came with it is direct government involvement", realized Pierre Lafague from the Barrière du Maine group. "I mean, the assassins are obviously working on their bills and orders, but this is something completely different."
"I agree", Enjolras nodded. "Although we have made first inquiries and the responsibilities and lines of decisions of that night are nowhere near clear. I would be hopeful, though, that in unraveling these things we might come closer to the faces of the mask. So the events around the captivity and trial of Madame de Cambout should be of utmost interest to us. I do have a suspicion that a display may be needed when the case finally comes before a judge, and I fully count on everyone to appear and lend us support in that aspect, should necessity arise. This is a matter that concerns us all."
It was a marvel how he managed to say things like these – monopolizing not only his own resources, but that of others as well – and get away with it, but he was Enjolras, and such was his gift.
Courfeyrac nodded in slight satisfaction. This was going well.
Éponine was bored.
Johann Armbruster was a man in his mid-forties, his hair a mousy brown streaked with grey, a large mustache being the most remarkable features in a round, red-cheeked face with brown eyes and fleshy lips. His stature indicated a love for good food and drink, while his clothes were a telltale sign of the considerable wealth of a bourgeois or lower nobleman.
And he was having the most uneventful evening unimaginable.
It had started out fairly interesting, for as he arrived at Le Trésor d'Alsace, he had been in the company of Laurent Mesigny, a former priest now turned politician that was well known as an ally and helper of the ancient bishop of Autun, who these days went by the name of Monsieur de Talleyrand only.
As illustrious as Talleyrand seemed to be – his infamous reputation had even reached the lower quarters of Paris – the conversation between Armbruster and Mesigny was relatively uneventful. It covered a few minor items of parliamentary politics – which Éponine did not understand but tried to memorize; a few comments towards common acquaintances of the two – who were unbeknownst to Éponine, so the stories made no sense; and general comments about food, weather and the situation in the city that were as nondescript as humanly possible.
Mesigny had stayed for the better part of an hour during which they shared a meal and then excused himself.
Since then – and three more hours had already passed – Armbruster had occupied himself with reading through a few of the newspapers that the restaurant had on display. Éponine recognized Le Moniteur and – of all things – Le Globe; the horrendeous drawing of Alexandre de Cambout staring back at her from the front page.
Boredom had receded for a moment, when, about half an hour after Mesigny had left, the door had opened to allow entrance to a person that Éponine certainly had not expected here.
Kataczyna Woroniecka was in the company of a woman who was the spitting image of her – if a good twenty years older. The same blond hair, the same round face, dimples and clear blue eyes, yet where Katya gave a display of youthful vigor, there was a hard line around her mother's mouth that made Éponine wonder what her history was.
Poverty it was not, given the dresses both of them were wearing.
They met with three men of various ages, one still young, probably the age of Éponine and Katya, the other two slightly older, and started chatting in an incomprehensible language that Éponine assumed was Polish.
She was relieved of the question whether Katya had even recognized her in the dress she was wearing, when the young woman gave her a quick nod, not more than a twinkle, when her companions were particularly engaged in conversation.
The message was clear.
A good evening to you, Mademoiselle, and it might be best if we don't know each other here.
That was a game Éponine could play as well.
So now, she divided her attention between the table talking agitatedly but incomprehensibly and the table where nothing happened, thinking about what stories she was missing.
She nipped on her water and wondered what Montparnasse was expecting.
And if she was able to deliver it before she died of boredom.
It was a well-known motion, familiar like the lines on the back of his hand, loved like the smile of a mother, cherished like a trinket found in the endless days of youthful summer.
He enjoyed every second of it.
First, the glass, high and slender, like the pillars of the oracle of Delphi; and then the liquid, green and thick, something like from a witches cauldron, full of promise and of danger.
The smell was alluring and familiar, and he closed his eyes for a moment and drowned out the voices of his friends, the voices of those of the Barrière, who were still sitting at the table he had just left to take up his post somewhere in the back of the wine shop, at a perfect observation point for the things to come.
The memory of what would happen clouded his senses with a familiar kind of ecstasy, and Grantaire savored the moment in a few breaths before the ritual continued.
A spoon on top of the glass, a careful balancing act, yet he had practiced it often enough, and the few glasses of wine that he had had already had by far not been enough to render his hands unsteady and unsure, and so the metal lay calm and unmoving.
Then a piece of sugar, the next piece of the arrangement, carefully placed upon the spoon.
For a moment, he stopped and admired his handiwork.
And then, the crowning glory. The last drops of absinthe onto the sugar and then
The alcohol burned with a flame in red and blue, the sugar blistering and melting under the temperature of it; the fire dancing in a promise of the dreams that the beverage would bring, a first hint at the colorful glory of the green fairy, and the warmth kissed his face as he watched it burn.
Finally, when the fire had run its course, he dropped what remained of the sugar into the glass and stirred, eager now for completion, the time for spectacle and games past.
He downed the absinthe in a single sip.
And gave himself over to the glory of dreams and the events that passed before his eyes. There was a special brightness in the society of those young men full of dreams and folly, and he found his own folly reflected and complemented in their eyes.
It was a home, as much as he owned one; his true home, not the tiny room just off Place Saint Michel, but instead a place of thoughts and truths, of wits and laughs, and as the green fairy whispered careful songs through his veins, he realized once more, how, despite everything and all, they were dear to him.
Enjolras was commanding the attention of everyone in effortless, golden glory, and like glittering specters the occurrences of the past days danced through the room.
Akin to a butterfly following from flower to flower, they flittered from topic to topic, learning this, comparing that, in a complicated dance of effort, intent and futility.
Beautiful words were woven to give sense and hope to the captivity of Madame de Cambout, yet words were all it was, and Grantaire had witnessed the discussion before. They had no idea how to help dear Hélène. And still, Enjolras' voice seemed full of conviction as he spoke of it. Grantaire shook his head and downed the contents of his glass of wine in one gulp.
Words. Beautiful words.
But he had a suspicion that despite all this beauty, Madame would mount the guillotine and die there.
For words were all they had, and belief without truth was a sad and hollow thing.
Dreams were not enough.
That was the one thing that Enjolras never understood.
And yet, the magnetism of the room was slowly weaving its alluring spell on him. Enjolras clearly was the center of it, as he always was, so impossible to ignore in fire and flame, the one spot of color and light among the darkness of the Corinthe, among the crowd that filled the wine shop to the brim.
He stood out even amongst these many, and he stood alone as everything else receded to grey.
The words and discussions were becoming increasingly difficult to follow as the green fairy reached its spidery fingers to him, but he surrendered to it willingly, because while it placed one veil over that which was discussed, it removed another and showed things for what they were.
The green fairy made him sensitive to the shifts and undercurrents, to the faces behind the facades. It was another kind of beauty, and another kind of ugliness.
Grantaire leaned back and let the spectacle pass before his eyes.
The combination of wine and absinthe gave the moment a peculiar sense of reality, every motion slowing down to almost nothingness, as if a moment had been cut out of time for him to observe. With fascination, he watched the way Marc Lamarin twiddled a pen between nimble fingers in a boyish gesture. Watched, how wine was dripping from one of the half-empty barrels, drop by red, bloody drop that was slowly creating a small puddle on the table. Watched, how the candlelight was being thrown back gloriously from the gold spun perfection that was Enjolras' blond locks. Watched, how a tiny spot of light crawled along the wall from the outside, along the window frame and into the room like an errant firefly.
Something about that last thought struck him as odd. The spot of light was moving, a tiny, glowing bulb of gold, and it passed through the room with surprising speed.
Did fireflies move that quickly?
Mystified, taking another sip of wine, Grantaire watched the unusual phenomenon. He had seen fireflies as a child, they had been different in a way difficult to put his finger on.
The light had been slightly more greenish. Smaller. Blinking.
The trajectory less determined.
Grantaire frowned and screwed his eyes together in an attempt to clear his vision. Yes, the path of the glow was unidicrectional; fairly unidirectional, in the general direction of the corner that Enjolras, Courfeyrac and Lamarin were sitting, and probably too determined for even the strongest minded firefly.
Did fireflies even have minds?
In the half-light of the tavern, the image took a moment to gain shape and form, but then, all of the sudden, the mystery seemed solved. The light was not moving through thin air on its own accord like a firefly would, it was a small spark of flame, and it was quickly passing along a thin rope that had been woven along the inner wall of the Corinthe, reaching from the window to one of the piles of barrels leaning against the wooden panels.
He smiled. More often than not, the strangest observations would lead to the simplest explanations. The wonders of the world. A true Combeferrian reasoning.
Taking another sip of wine, he wondered why something about this thought was still nagging him.
And then, all of a sudden, the world became clear in an instant.
Where before, there had been the warm and fuzzy kiss of the green fairy, and the pleasant dizziness of wine, everything now turned into a different kind of focus. And he realized the danger he was looking at.
He stared at the moving flame, seeing it for the first time not as a wondrous thing of beauty, but for what it was.
Traveling along a fuse.
Leading to a pile of barrels.
It was Rue de Saint Nicaise all over again.
For a moment, everything became still. Grantaire stared in horror at the spark as it travelled, and his mind readily supplied the next seconds while his eyes took in the scene before him.
The discussion was heated. No one paid the spark any heed.
And there were his friends – sweet heavens, there was Enjolras – sitting right next to these wretched barrels and his heartbeat was ticking in his head like the interworkings of a giant clock, counting down to the scenery's ultimate conclusion.
A golden spark extinguishing the brightest of flames.
Grantaire had never fancied himself a courageous man. He had not even fancied himself a good man. But now, as the spark travelled through the room, there was no time for thought, for consideration, even for decision. In this one, singular moment, everything that was uncertain before became clear to him, and there was no doubt, no second-guessing on this path.
With the agility of a sober man he jumped to his feet, heard a roar of "Down!" being called into the room – only dimly he recognized his own voice - and he lurched forward to where Enjolras was sitting, as pandemonium broke out in the room.
Roused by the call, everyone turned around for the source of the voice, the source of the threat, but it was too late, too slow, and Grantaire ruthlessly shoved his way towards the machine infernale.
Enjolras stared at him in confusion, but the spark travelled, oh, it travelled, and there was no time for explanation; so he grabbed his hand and shoved him aside, bringing himself between Enjolras and the barrel and trying to jump back behind tables and other furniture to relative safety.
There was no sound as he was torn off his feet, just a mere absurd second's notion of flying. He clung to Enjolras in an attempt at shielding him from the blow, and then there was a crash, and he dropped to the floor, seeing nothing but eyes of blue, so clear, impossible blue, widened in shock and confusion.
There was a strange notion of pain, in the very end, somewhere in the vague vicinity of his neck, like the pricking of a needle.
An odd sensation, he thought, as he looked into wide blue eyes, and his vision started to lose color (blue turning into gray, gold turning into white…) and shape, and finally, finally brightness.
Fading, he mused as he ended, was oddly peaceful like this.